Sunday, March 15, 2015

An Accidental Absence of Solitude

I'm back.

Back from a much too long absence.

An accidental absence.

I haven't gone anywhere during this absence.

I haven't made any major life changes during either.

It has a been an absence of solitude.

Solitude or maybe perhaps better defined as loneliness.

So I return.

I return to this blog because getting the words down has made a difference in the past.  Maybe no one will read them - that's OK.  Somehow getting my thoughts out in the world helps.  Strange but true. Perhaps that is because when I do, I realize I am not really as alone as I think I am.  That others feel the same way or if nothing else, now have a better idea of what widowhood is like.

It has a been a slow decent.

I thought the worst years were behind me.

But I was wrong.

This past August marked the beginning of my tenth year as a widow.  Ten years of solitude.  I originally thought this was going to be a big year - that I was going to feel great about this milestone.
I had survived ten years of an unwelcome life as a single parent due to the hands of cancer.  I had survived parenting alone for ten years.  I survived the "crazy over scheduled" years with three kids involved in baseball, theater, swimming and art classes.  I survived the teenage boy years, the learning to drive years, the applying to college years.  I haven't quite survived the preteen girl years - that one is an enigma that I'm still trying to navigate.  I barely survived the "getting out there and dating" - that one wasn't fun and but I tried it.

I have reached personal accomplishments I never dreamed of before Brian's passing.  Traveling alone, marathons, cycling, sharing my personal story.

The most difficult years were behind me.

Or so I thought.

The past few years I've noticed more downs than ups.

More personal disappointment.

More boredom.

And feeling very a life that doesn't feel like mine.

As I reflect back on the past year or two, each day seems the same.   Just walking through life.

That needs to change.  I need to change.  What happens if I don't?  Will those two years become five? ten? a lifetime?

I am not sure how I will do it but picking up this blog seems to be a start.  The honestly needed to write these entries holds me accountable.

I will take baby steps....starting with exercising more regularly again.  Then making some hard decisions on making major changes.

Honestly when we all look back on our lives, we all want it to have been full of life, right?  Not full of being stuck in rut....watching the years pass by like a blink of an eye.

Have I lived a full life?  Yes.  But the question is, am I still living a full life?  Nor really.  I'm more likely to be sitting in my house doing nothing - like I was on this absolutely gorgeous spring day - wasting a perfectly fantastic day with not a single accomplishment other than a load of laundry, a trip to the grocery store and watching tv.

A reality check is needed.  Until I truly reflected on the past two years, I didn't realize how unhappy I have been for so long.  Without reflection, can any of us really change?

I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

"Just Because I Love You...."

"Just because I love you."

How many times have we said this to another individual in our lives - the love of our life, a parent, a sibling, a child?

How many times have we overlooked saying it?

How many times have we overlooked showing our love?

How many times do we take love for granted?

10 years ago this week, I celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary with the love of my life.  It was a day like any other day.

Wake up, shower, wake up our three kids (9, 6 and 10 months), chaos of getting out the door - breakfasts more than likely eaten in the back of the van.  Splitting up kids and taking them to their respective camps, day care, practice, etc.  Off to work to split up parenting duties to pick up kids, go to baseball, play rehearsal, swim practice, etc etc etc.  Somehow fit in dinner on the run, baths and kids to bed....then off to bed ourselves.

I am sure somewhere along that normal crazy day in the life of working parents with three kids we realized it was a milestone anniversary and maybe there was a quick kiss on the run and a "Happy Anniversary" but nothing more.  I wonder if we even acknowledged it that much!

I do know we both knew that life with three kids under 10 was crazy and had discussed that we would figure out a way to celebrate with a dinner or maybe even a weekend away some other year.  But at this moment, it just wasn't possible.

Unfortunately, it never was possible.

Two months later, Brian was in the hospital for a very rare form of cancer and passed away within 2 weeks of his diagnosis.

My life is filled with regret - most I can accept and change direction or go back and have a "do over."

One of my biggest regrets I can't "do over."

Taking our love for one another for granted is number 1 on my regret list.

Tuesday would have been our 25th wedding anniversary.  

To honor our missed opportunity of acknowledging our love to each other, I am asking that you help me in celebrating this lost milestone by making an unexpected gesture of love to someone important in your life "just because you love them."

A hug, a lingering kiss out of the blue, flowers, do the dishes, bring home dinner, or just simply tell them how much you love them and why they are so important to you.

Then please share your "Just because I love you" moment with me as a comment on my post or on my Facebook page.

For each moment that is shared with me , I will make a $5.00 to the LIVESTRONG Foundation in memory of Brian and our 25th anniversary.

For every $25 donation made to my LIVESTRONG fundraising account on June 10th, I'll donate another $5.00. (use this link to make a donation on-line)

Please don't ever take those you love for granted.  I am living proof that you will regret it and you can't have a "do over."

By the way - I love all my friends and family for all the support you have given me these past ten years. Thank you and I LOVE YOU! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Measuring Time

"Time is not measured by the passing of years but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves." ~ Jawaharial Nehru

Time....when you time about it, really think about it, it is a funny thing.

What is time?  

We waste it, we set our day by it, we let time make decisions for us.

But is a day that marks time for me and my family.

August 20, of those days that changed our lives.

A day we refer back to....the before and after date.

I have a few others of those in my life - August 21, 1987, June 10, 1989, February 21, 1995, February 19, 1998, August 21, 2003 being others....the day I met Brian, the day we married, and each day another one of my children entered our lives.

Each one of these milestones is used as a point of reference - what life was life before and after we married, any of the kids were born.  We all do it, don't we?

Well today marks the anniversary of one of those days.  August 20, 2004...the day Brian passed away.

Just as the day I met Brian changed everything for me, the day he passed away changed everything too.  

I am a much different version of me since that date.

Just as Brian made me a better person when he entered my life, he made me a different better person when he left my life.

It is strange thinking about how different we all would be if he were still alive. How different our life as a family would be.

Since August 20, 2004, I have taken up running.  Something I had not done since high school.  I have raced in over 20 half marathons, 5 marathons, and countless others.

I have risen from bed at 4:30 am to meet new friends (after Brian friends) to train in the 5 am.

This is a version of me that Brian never knew.  Running a marathon was never in my bucket list before Brian passed.  It was after.

What else?

I took up cycling.  Yes, I knew how to ride a bike but never cycled.  Since then I have cycled across Iowa twice (while camping), ridden numerous times in the Texas Hill Country and tackled the hills of Philadelphia with my LIVESTRONG pals.

And the LIVESTRONG connection.  Well all those friends I have made through this wonderful organization, the community I have become a part of.....none of that existed before August 20, 2004.

I parachuted out of a plane.

I have traveled more.

I decided not to put life on hold anymore.

One of the things Brian and I talked about when he was in the hospital those last few days was all the things we had "planned" to do when the kids were older.

Well, August 20, 2004 changed all those plans.

I vowed afterward never to "put off" anything that really didn't need to be put off.  I have lots of dreams, we all do.  Many can't be accomplished right now.....but many can.  So I began ticking those off my list.

Am I a better version of me?  I don't necessarily think so.  Just different.  

It hasn't been easy these past 9 years.  And I certainly could have made better decisions about a lot of things.  

So today is a day of reflection....of a man we all miss and a life that has changed forever.

But this is also a week filled with new beginnings....our oldest is heading off to college.

He is ready to move on.....and I think so because since August 20, 2004, independence became a way of life for all of us....and helped prepare my son for life.

This milestone in his life reminds me that his dad and I met when we were just a few years older than he.....and that this chapter in his life is beginning......

.....a new "the day everything changed" is just around the corner for him.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wait.....What Day is Today? Life Really Does Go On.....

It finally happened.

It only took 9 years.

And it took my 9 year old to make me realize it.

Today I went on a bike ride with my daughter, as we so often do.

A short 5 mile ride to grab lunch and hit the library.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

Along the way, we we so often do.

I am always amused by the thoughts running through my 9 year old's head......especially while she is riding a bike (although I wish she would concentrate a bit more on keeping her line!).

About halfway through our ride, she advised me that it is only 10 days until her birthday. She is incredibly excited to be DOUBLE DIGITS!

Woo Whoo!!!

Wait a second.....

My mind began doing the math.....

If it was 10 days until her birthday, it was only 9 days until the anniversary of her dad's passing.

And that meant that the anniversary of his being diagnosed with cancer, had come and gone.....without a thought by me.

And the days from that terrible afternoon until this day, which were filled with just as terrible news and emotions, had also come and gone.....without a thought by me.

This was a first.

Each year since that terrible Friday afternoon on August 6, 2004 (The Day My World Began Moving in Slow Motion) and all the days leading up to the day Brian passed away on Friday, August 20, 2004, the first two weeks of August have been an awful walk down memory lane.  And not a lane I'd want anyone else to ever have to visit.

Suddenly, for whatever reason, on the 9th anniversary of my husband's passing, I didn't remember the day he was suddenly admitted to the hospital.  I didn't relive the moments the surgeon changed our lives from one filled with hope for a lifetime of memories to a panic of just days of survival.  The sudden realization that I would have to make phone calls to share the news with his mother, his father, his brother, my family.....and worst of all, our children.

(see my past blogs that describe how I was feeling in previous years) 

I am not sure what is different about this year than the past 8 years, but this year feels different.

And although I doubt I'll ever forget ever minute of those two weeks, at least this year, I get to remember them on my own terms.

I never believed this day would come.

I thought if it this day did ever come. I would feel though I had turned my back on Brian.

But honestly, it is an incredible relief.

I am sure the actual anniversary of his passing will come with a heavy heart - especially since this year we will not be spending it at the LIVESTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia surrounded by fantastic friends as we have the past three years.

Instead, it will be a regular day...driving kids around town, attending meetings at work, helping my oldest pack for college, getting out for a run or ride, and I am certain, finding time to fittingly honor Brian.

I live every day honoring this amazing man....the love of my life and the incredible father of our three equally amazing and unique children.

Thankfully I am able to finally do it without laboring over all the terrible minutes of those two weeks of pain.

Live really does go on....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What Parenting Tought Me About Being Second Best

It'll take a moment to get to my aha moment of parenting but I need to set the's just need to be patient.

This week has been an extremely difficult week.

I am certain there are others have far worse weeks than I.

I am certain that the reasons my week was awful is petty in compared to others.

And I am most certain, given the crappy circumstances I have been dealt throughout my life, that these experiences this week are not nearly as bad as those.

But, bad moments on top of other bad moments, really are tough to bounce back from when they come all at once.

Nothing life threatening.

Nothing tragic.

Just a lot of circumstances in which I was reminded that I was or am second best.

Second best in some situations is pretty nice - like in the Olympics or the lottery.  In both those situations, yes, being first would have been nice but second still has it's perks.

Mine were not Olympic Silver moments....Nope....not even close.

I have had several situations over the past few years in which someone else decided I was second best

Well that's too bad for them, right?  Yes, but in reality, it does hurt being second best.

This week I was reminded of several of those.  One came flashing back by a simple song playing in a restaurant.  The song reminded me of someone that I loved and have tried so desperately to forget and move on from.  That one song brought back a floodgate of memories and pangs in my heart.  All for someone that no longer even thinks of me, that loved me but I was an option and tossed me aside when something new and better came along.  Second best.

Another was an awkward run-in with someone that actually had to make a choice and, yep, I was on the losing end of that one as well.  Second best.   The run-in was awkward because the first choice was at their side....and certainly didn't know the flustered mom saying hello was a second choice.

Another was a professional situation in which, by no purposeful intention, I was made to feel as though I was not as good others.  And still another was a situation in which it was a surprise to me to find out that I was no longer a first choice.

All different circumstances.

All rather personal and as you can imagine humiliating, embarrassing and as human nature has it, any one of those would be enough to cause self doubt.

But the worst part of this week?

Seeing my child go through a similar situation and seeing the disappointment, anger, sadness, and self doubt creep in.

My son was involved in a competition that requires quite a bit of subjective judging.  On any given day, the same speech could be considered a winner or enough to miss the cut depending on a judge.

That day, he just missed the cut.  A matter of one or two points after days of competition and he was sitting in the hotel watching the Heat make the Spurs second best while others were prepping for the finals competition the next morning.

As I tried to console him, rather unsuccessfully I may add, I heard myself telling him I wish I could tell you life was fair, but it is not.

I wish I could tell you that this won't happen again in your lifetime, but it won't.

I wish I could tell you that everything will be ok, but you won't believe me.

I wish I could take the hurt away, but I can't.  It will hurt.  It will sting.  It will fad away but every now and again, something will remind you - a song, a smell, a joke, a memory - and the hurt will come back....not as strong.....but it will come back.

Be sad, be angry, be disappointed....but eventually in a few days, wake up and vow to put that in the past.  Accept it and allow that disappointment, anger and sadness to propel you forward to greater pastures.

Hmmmm......perhaps this is advice I should take?

So, here is my plan.  I am going to make some changes.  Changes in my day to day life.  Changes in my professional life.  Changes in how I make decisions, changes in my dreams.  I'm going to write them down and look at them EVERYDAY.

And although being second best pretty much sucks (sorry but there isn't any better word to describe it), I am going to take being second best as a an inspiration to do greater things with my take the opportunity to do WHATEVER I want and do it as best as I can.

To those around me that thought I was second best (not that I think they are reading along), well, I hope they don't eventually realize what everyone else knows - that I'm first-class, fabulous. talented and incredibly smart - because then guess who will feel like second best....not me!

Wow, parenting teaches the parent!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"The Crime of Loving is Forgetting"

"The crime of loving is forgetting." ~ Maurice Chevalier

About 27 years ago, give or take a year or a few months, my closest college friends and I were contemplating our futures.  It was agreed - unanimously I may add - that of the 5 of us, I would be the last to marry and would always be a fabulous aunt, but never a mother.

Ironically, I was the first to marry and the first to have children...three no less!

Life certainly gives you surprises along the way (that would definitely explain why there is a rather large gap between by middle child and the youngest...Surprise!!).

My dreams and aspirations when I was 19 and 20 years old are considerable different that the 46 year old version of me.

The first major change in my dreams and hopes?  Unexpectedly meeting this really great guy at a fraternity party in the second semester of our senior year in college.  This frat boy and I had both been in Ithaca, NY over the same period of time, but not until January 1988 did we cross paths.....and our paths stayed intertwined from that day forward.

There was never any question in my mind - although this boy did not work into my "plan" nor my friendly wager with my college girlfriends.

No, this boy was a game changer - or more appropriately a life changer.

Tomorrow marks the 24th anniversary of my marriage to this frat boy.  

24 years since our college friends - many of them that were present on that fateful evening in the basement bar of Lambda Chi Alpha - gathered to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in both our lives.  A chapter neither of us saw coming so quickly.  But nonetheless, a chapter we were not going to run away from.

I truly believe that every so often, someone will walk into your life that changes it forever.  

Brian was this person to me.

I have no doubt that there have been others -  friends I have made along the 46 years of my life, teachers, coaches, and quite possible complete strangers on a plane.

Brian was different.  He allowed me to unleash my inner-confidence.  He never once doubted what I was able to achieve - although (and I'm sure this will surprise many of you), I was filled with doubts about myself.  

We clicked. 

Every moment from that first time we spoke (in which he told me they were out of beer.....really, who runs out of beer at a fraternity happy hour??), we never skipped a beat.  It was always effortless - even when it shouldn't have been.

Recently a very brave friend asked me a question that I suppose others would have been offended by.  I'll admit, I was for a moment until I realized that this person - as many others - really was just curious and trying to gain an understanding.  It wasn't meant to judge me or anyone else.

I was asked at what point do widows "move on."  It wasn't directed to me per say, it was really just a general question and since I was a widow, and I'm pretty much an open-book, and lets face it, an opinionated one to boot, it makes sense to ask me.

My response was we all move on in a different time frame.  There is no "exact" time and quite honestly, as I've mentioned before, grieving never truly is "over."

Yes, I am still in love with Brian.

How do you stop loving someone that had such an influential impact on your life?  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I don't know what it is like to be divorced, but I do know that those I'm friends with still go through a grieving period, yet often times there is no love lost in those relationships.

The difference with a widow?  Our relationship was ended for us by something completely out of our control.  It didn't end because either or both parties feel out of love or potentially realized they never were truly in love.  Now, before I am criticized, I do recognize that some widows perhaps were in loveless marriages.  

That was not the case with Brian and I.  We were very much still in love when he passed away.  Never in my mind - and I can only hope he felt the same way - did I ever doubt that I would live the rest of my life with him by my side.  

Unfortunately, that was only true for Brian.

Yes, I have moved on.  As a matter of fact I have loved again since Brian passed away.

Ironically it is that relationship that put my life on hold....made me feel stuck....and caused me to struggle moving forward. It was that relationship that caused an internal struggle with moving forward because with the end of that relationship, I lost trust, lost faith, and sadly lost my sense of confidence.

I will always love Brian.  I have no reason not to love Brian.  We didn't part ways angry and disillusioned with one another, didn't disappoint one another, didn't lose trust in one another, never made each other feel like an option and never ever stopped loving one another.

Brian is very much still a very important part of my life.  We have three beautiful children that deserve to know their father and how much he loved them.  As a matter of fact, it would be hard to forget Brian even if I never spoke of him again.  One is the spitting image of Brian and all three exhibit behaviors of Brian, so every day I am constantly given subtle reminders of him.

I absolutely love that my life crossed paths with Brian that night....without him, I would be a completely different version of myself.

I am so glad that night occurred when it did and that the bond between Brian and I was so strong so immediately.  I am glad that both of us recognized that our meeting was worth derailing our hopes and dreams.

Otherwise I would not have enjoyed 15 fabulous loving years married to this frat boy.  I'll take those 15 years with him loving him over a lifetime without him.

And I will never regret still loving him.  No one, no experience, no bumps along the road of life will ever change my feelings for him.

Now, go hug someone special in your life and tell them how much you love them!

And enjoy those unexpected surprises life tosses you!